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We love sandwiches, and we’ve eaten many, from great deli sandwiches (Chicago, like Manny’s, Bari, and Riviera) to Philly cheesesteaks, Pittsburgh hoagies, southern barbecue, New Orleans muffulettas & po boys, New England lobster rolls & fried clam rolls, just about anything from Zingerman’s, French baguette bar sandwiches, Israeli shawarmas, al pastor tacos, and weird, weird restaurant concoctions. Long ago, with dead space at the front of a catering kitchen, we thought we’d try a twist on a traditional sandwich shop. And figuring that it would be a deli (a thought that didn’t survive the first week), we choose the solid deli name of “Jerry’s”, really an homage to only the greatest guitar player of all time – Jerome John Garcia.
Jerry’s offers a Bumsteadian lineup of well over 100 sandwiches, including named creations, warm sandwiches, burgers, hickory-smoked stuff, and rotating collection of specials. In addition, we allow customers “in the know” to create their own sandwiches by mixing and matching. And we’ve become a bar, featuring many (and only) North American craft beers as well as a growing collection of American whiskeys. Rounding out the excess, Jerry’s offers some fine music from a digital database of tens of thousands of songs, that is when we’re not offering live music at Wicker Park.
The original Jerry’s (now dearly departed) was opened on Madison Street in 2002 at the front of a catering kitchen. With the rent paid and the former West Loop skid row neighborhood gentrifying, a whimsical idea was formed to open an edgy sandwich shop serving ersatz restaurant entrees, obscure regional stuff, and basically anything else on bread, and calling it a sandwich. In a nutshell, the idea was that if you’ve got pot roast, bread, and some Louisiana hot sauce, you’ve got yourself a heck of a sandwich.
That original incarnation of Jerry’s had only 5 stools at the front window, but by the end of the first day the office table and chairs had been commandeered and in short order storage space was demolished to make room for more seating. Present day Jerry’s seats 100-200 indoors and outdoors, and what was once a much more limited menu has evolved into the beast that it is today, confounding poor suckers who just wander in for a ham and cheese but delighting the Jerry fans who make some of the most interesting and abhorrent combinations known to man. Factor in the genius to add American craft beer, thereby possibly inventing the combination of a sandwich and a beer (yet no Nobel Prize nominations have been forthcoming?).